My interview with an artist from Marvel comics

Feature, Interviews, Uncategorized

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Covers by Geof Ishwerwood. Photos from author’s website.


He’s an illustrator, painter, sculptor and part-time teacher. Spider-Man, Thor, Conan the Barbarian, Dr. Strange and Silver Surfer are just a few of the titles on his extensive resume. With a portfolio that speaks for itself, Geoffrey Isherwood—who prefers to go by Geof—has lived his dream by making a living in the arts, a field many have found themselves discouraged to pursue.

The signs that he would pursue artistic ventures, specifically comic books, were visible even at an early age.

“When I was 12 [my parents] told me to stop buying comics,” says Isherwood. “I did anyway. I got a bachelor of fine arts from Concordia University and within a year of graduating I was working with Marvel.”

It wasn’t an overnight process, however, the materialization of his ambitions required a combination of talent, timing and a bit of luck.

“When I was 16-years old, my family took a trip to Manhattan and I snuck into Marvel studios with my drawings and met artists who encouraged me and pointed out things I should work on,” he begins. “I stayed there for 20 minutes and went home. You could walk right into marvel talk to the receptionist and they’d send you to see somebody.”

Would it be possible to do the same today? The longtime Marvel artist says it’s improbable.

“Not at all, not today. There’s a big corporate wall, it’s the like the CIA or something. It’s crazy. Disney all these places, it’s really tough to break in,” he admits. “Nowadays its really about online, a lot of editors look at digital comics and find artists that way or its networking and word of mouth.”

Isherwood’s career path was a self-inflicted and conscious decision that grew out of his love for comic book medium.

“Just as a lot of kids are, and this was the 60s, I was drawn to comic books. I really liked the storytelling aspect of it,” he says. ” I decided when I was ten-years old I wanted to draw comics.”

The illustrator digs deeper into his past as he expands on his childhood.

“I really loved drawing and I wanted to find out what possible career I could get into where I could keep drawing. That’s when I saw a picture of Charles Shultz at home in his studio and I thought that’s what I want to do,” he explains.”I don’t know how I got the crazy idea that I could just wake up, get my breakfast, sit down and draw.”

And that’s exactly what he did. Needless to say, it never left him.

But when he’s too busy with projects, “Geof” recommends up and coming artists for jobs he can’t take.

“Recently for instance, I was able to recommend a young artist to do a comic about Iron Maiden, the Heavy-Metal band, a pseudo-biopic [of mascot] Eddie the Head.”

 

photo credit: Tommy Morais

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Geoff Isherwood during a signing at Comic-Book Addiction, Whitby.

Where do superhero movies fit in the grand scheme of it all? Isherwood argues that movie producers have been effective in bringing the action-packed panels to life over the course of the last decade, something that had previously been lacking. He also points out how studios have benefited from the rich history of comics.

“When you look at what Hollywood has done, they’ve finally been able to bring out the visual aspect of comics that superhero movies had been lacking with special effects,” says the artist. “It took a while, but they’re now realizing the have a gold mine of stories with comics.”

As he points out, the relationship between the artist and the finished product can be a love-hate affair.

“It’s difficult for us artists,” says Isherwood. “If you work on a specific title you become very proprietary of the character, it becomes one of your children.”

The artist highlights the difference between the heroes featured on the big screen and those on the panels inside comic books.

“If you’re watching a movie it’s more passive, but the comic medium is more interactive,” he says. “You have to fill in the action between the panels.”

But what attracts us to comics in the first place? According to Isherwood, it has a lot to do with the characters and the medium itself.

“Its colourful. These characters are modern myths, they’re larger than life. It’s very theatrical and operatic with the grand gestures and the colours,” he says. “It was originally an escape from the war and people bought into that.”

He pauses.

“They still do.”

 

 

For more of Geof’s work and upcoming convention appearances you can visit goeffreyisherwood.ca

 

 

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I interviewed a cab driver this is what he had to say

Feature, Interviews, Uncategorized

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image: globalnews.ca


The other night I took a cab ride home at a much later hour than I’d like to admit. My driver was a man with glasses and kind eyes who wearing mostly black. We hit it off as I asked him about his job out of curiosity. I told him about my journalistic projects and asked him if he would be interested in doing an interview. He gave me a card with a phone number and told me to give him a call in the next couple of days.

The driver works for a Canadian cab company in the town of Whitby, Ontario. Due to the nature of his occupation he wished to remain anonymous for obvious and professional reasons. There are currently two cab companies in Whitby, but according to the cabbie they are far from being each other’s biggest competition.

Uber has experienced a surge in popularity in the last few years, one that directly affects the cab business.

“Uber is killing us. It’s really eating at our business,” he says. “A lot of people would rather take a Uber than a cab now “.

But if we’re talking about money just how exactly is the money shared between the cab company and its employees?

“We split 50-50. The cab company gets half and we get half. It’s not too bad,” he admits.

When l asked him about his previous evening night shift his voice took a happier tone.

“A guy wanted a ride to Durham College on Simcoe [street]”, he begins. “He asked how much it [the fare] was. I told him $30 and asked me if l could do it for ten. I told him, ” Look, I’m a nice guy, but I can’t do that.”

This story has a bright ending, however.

“Someone outside the bar just gave him the extra twenty and said he owed him a couple of drinks if they ever saw each other again.”

He told me the highlight of his last shift came from a group that required him to make multiple stops.

“I drove girls from the club earlier. They all came as a group and l dropped each of them to their homes. I made $64 total so that’s not too bad.”

The cabbie admits the business is not as profitable as it once was and reveals he faces challenging prospects for the future.

“I’m making half the money l used to make 5-6 years ago doing this,” he said. “I only do this part-time on the weekends but it’s not what it used to be. My cab license expires in a few months and frankly l don’t know if I’ll still be driving a year from now.”

Next time you take a cab you might want to think about tipping the driver, especially if he or she is kind and friendly.

Hall of Fame Inductee Turns Heads

Features, Interviews

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      Oshawa, On- Eric Lindros stands in the lobby of the Oshawa City Council. 01/02/2016 Morais, Tommy.

And now for the evening’s worst kept secret,” says mayor John Henry as he kicked off the introduction of this year’s Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame inductees at city council.   The Sports Hall of fame is one of the most anticipated events of the evening. During this yearly event,inductees are announced and recognized for their individual contributions to sports in the city of Oshawa.

This year, one particular inductee stands out. At 6 ft 4, retired NHL player and former Oshawa General Eric Lindros casts an imposing figure. His large stature draws attention when he stands next to council members and his fellow inductees. Yet, on this occasion, Lindro’s most noticeable feature on is easily the bright, wide smile he sports on his face. He received thenews of his induction in the Hall of Fame twelves days prior to the event.

“I was honoured [to] get the call,” he said.

The 1991 NHL first round draft pick just might be the most popular inductee in Oshawa’s Sports Hall of Fame this year. As he leaves the room, a small crowd of students follows Lindros out of the council and into the lobby. When students badger him with questions, some of professional nature, others rooted in fandom. He smiles and politely answers.

The father of three says being recognized by the city of Oshawa is not just another in what is now a long line of accomplishments.

“I have so many great memories, friends and history here,” says Lindros of his time in an Oshawa Generals jersey. “I remember getting lost on Oshawa Boulevard the first night I got here.”

Touted early on in his career as “the next one” (a reference to Wayne Gretzky as “the great one”), Lindros left his mark in the 13 seasons he spent in the NHL playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars accumulating 372 goals, 493 assists in 760 games for a total of 865 points.

His resume also includes a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics, a Hart Trophy (1995), one Lester B. Pearson award (1995), and 7All-Star game appearances (1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002).

“Communicating success is easy… but Communicating failure is just as important.”- Eric Lindros

The retired NHL player took the opportunity to talk to the small audience surrounding him about the See the Line foundation in which he currently serves the role of honorary chair. See the Line works on research and raising concussion awareness .

“Communicating success is easy,” says Lindros.  “But people need to know that communicating failure is just as important.”

The Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place on May 25 2016 at the General Motors Centre.

 

Conversations with a female tattoo artist

Features, Interviews

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WALKERTON,Ont. -Verna Riel Wilson sitting at the kitchen table, “the office”. Photo by: Tommy Morais.

 

Apple started out in Steve Jobs’ garage. Actor Jim Carrey worked as a janitor to help support his family long before he became an actor. Tattoo artist Verna Riel-Wilson’s aspirations began in her mother’s kitchen.

Like her upbringing, Riel-Wilson’s beginnings are humble. “I started by tattooing myself,” she said, pointing to various ink scattered across both of her arms. “That’s how it started, tattooing my family, friends and myself in the kitchen”. She has been an artist for as long as she can remember, drawing since she was a little girl. 2016 marks her 35 years as a tattoo artist.

I’ve tattooed policemen, firemen,judges but the most surprising of them all had to be a local priest.

“First thing I say is if you don’t have any, don’t start,” warns Riel-Wilson. “They’re addictive.” She feels that people get tattoos generally as tributes or decorative pieces but some tell a story. When asked about some of the deeper meaning behind the ink, she explains that they’re part of who she is. “To me they tell a story about a certain time in life that the person’s going through. For me, I have them as tributes for my son,” says Riel-Wilson.

For the most part, tattooing is a positive experience. The artist gets huge satisfaction out of seeing her clients’ faces when they see the end result. Taking ideas and making them come to life can be a long and difficult process, but one that is ultimately rewarding. “When a customer tells you after you’ve done a tattoo how much they like it, it’s a boost on your ego,” she says.

Riel-Wilson explained that even people in highly regarded positions get tattoos. The reason? According to her it’s simply because people like art. “I’ve tattooed policemen, firemen,judges,” she says. “The most surprising of them all had to be a local priest. A tattoo is clearly not the taboo subject it once was. “The only thing I refuse to do is art that represents any form of racism because of my beliefs,” she says.

The tattoo artist is no stranger to judgement. “My uncle used to say my money was dirty,” Riel-Wilson says. “I said it pays my bills and I asked him how much his welfare cheque was,” says the artist with a certain air of satisfaction. As a female tattoo artist, she also dealt with a fair share of sexism. “They called me a biker bitch and I didn’t even ride a bike!” she says.

“Years ago I took town council to court so I could make sure one [tattoo shop] was allowed,” she says. “They realized there was a strip bar in the area and so they had to give me a shot.”

The artist revealed that when she first opened a tattoo shop people thought she was the help and not the owner, which shocked quite a few. Riel-Wilson had to fight for her art going as far as to engage in legal activities. When she first set up shop, she was the only tattoo artist in town and was denied a business licence three times. “Years ago I took town council to court so I could make sure one [tattoo shop] was allowed,” she says. “They realized there was a strip bar in the area and so they had to give me a shot.”

The Walkerton resident credits her mother as the motivation behind her career trajectory. Her mother was always very supportive of her art. “My mom asked me to do something with my art before she passed,” says Riel-Wilson. “I don’t know if that’s what she would’ve wanted, but I did it.”  She is semi-retired and now mainly works with preferred customers. On the subject of permanently retiring she laughed saying she’ll quit, “When I can’t hold a [tattoo] gun anymore.”

In her own unconventional way Riel-Wilson is a pioneer for gender equality and an inspiration to women everywhere. The world of tattooing was very much a boy’s club when she first started. It has since gone through an evolution and now women such as Kat Von D are now respected artists at the forefront of the tattoo scene. She may never get the credit she deserves, but it’s because of women like her who forged their way in a male-dominated culture that women have their rightful place in the field today.

And for that we thank you Verna,- happy international women’s day!